Chet Baker: The Missing Years by Artt Frank

C. Michael Bailey By

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Frank, in writing Chet Baker: The Missing Years by Artt Frank, evolves from intent memoirist recounting a brief and colorful period in his life that he shared with Chet Baker to Baker's apologist, defending the trumpeter against 50 years of jazz reportage. He plays a similar role to Baker that Francis Paudras did with Bud Powell in Dance of the Infidels: A Portriat of Bud Powell (Da Capo Press, 1998). The beauty of this evolution is that it is the prerogative of memoirist how he wishes to present the events assembled in the memoir. To be sure, Frank, himself, is an interesting character with a compelling story, a fact, that alone, makes the prospect of a Volume II that much more enticing. At the end of Volume I, Frank states:

"If anyone may see a need or reason to judge the man Chet Baker, then let him be judged for the poignantly beautiful, melodic and lyrical music he put forth from his horn and from his singing rather than for his physical weaknesses..."

Indeed...for Chet Baker, Artt Frank and ourselves.

Artt Frank appeared with Baker many times between their 1967 reunion and Baker's death in 1988. Two of these appearances were commercially released and their consideration is included here for completeness.

Chet Baker Quartet
Burnin' At Backstreet
Fresh Sounds Records

Burnin' At Backstreet was recorded at the Backstreet Club in New haven Connecticut on February 19, 1980. Baker and Frank appear in a quartet format with bassist Michael Formanek and pianist Drew Salperto. The repertoire is wholly Baker. Baker loved the Miles Davis songbook and his performances of Davis originals were always more rounded and open than Davis.' "Tune Up," the modal "Milestones" and craggy "Four" share the stage with another Baker favorite, Dizzy Gillespie's "Blue 'n Boogie." Baker is in good solo form on these up tempo numbers. His tone is fat and confident, even when presented tartly, like the opening of "Milestones."

Baker's two ballad's, "Stella By Starlight" and "Just Friends" are thoughtful and swinging, presented in the fashion that made Baker famous. Frank is a more than capable drummer who obviously shared an empathic connection with Baker. Stand out here is pianist Salperto whose bop chops, even at the dawn of the '80s were spot on.

Chet Baker
Live At The Renaissance II
CCB Productions

Live At The Renaissance II is a completely difference animal from Burnin' At Backstreet. Baker trades the piano for Lorne Lofsky's guitar and shares the front with Sal Nistico's tenor saxophone. The recital is all slow- to medium-tempo ballads. The sonics are slightly better than those on Backstreet. Baker's playing is beautiful. The trumpeter's trio recordings with guitarists made from this same period (this show was recorded November 11, 1984 in Buffalo, NY) were among his best. The testament to Baker's and Frank's friendship lay within Frank's delicate brush work that the trumpeter always appreciated.


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